Tag Archives: Zinfandel

Visit to Joseph Swan Vineyards – A pioneer in Russian River Valley

Introduction to Joseph Swan Vineyards

Joseph Swan Vineyards was founded approximately 50 years ago by Joe Swan who before that had a career as a pilot. In 1967 he bought some Zinfandel vineyards in the Russian River Valley and shortly after he started replanting some of these with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay by imported clones from France which in fact are some of the oldest Pinot Noir vineyards in the area. Joseph Swan Vineyards is a rather small estate in terms of volume, but it has had an important role in the development of the wine region. Joe Swan passed away in 1989 and since then Rod and Lynn Berglund run the estate in line with the principles established by Joe Swan.

A few short notes about how Joseph Swan Vineyards produce their wines:

  • They do not control temperature during fermentation and this results in a natural cold soak since the fermentation will not start immediately.
  • Approximately 30 percent of their grapes come from owned vineyards.
  • Approximately 20 percent whole clusters are used in the Pinot Noir wines.
  • They use 20-25 percent new oak for most of their single vineyard Pinot Noir wines.
  • Neither fining nor filtering is used.

Tasting notes for the wines from Joseph Swan Vineyards

The whites

2014 Joseph Swan Vineyards Viognier “Catie’s Corner”

Dominated by apricot both on nose and palate but there is also some pineapple and green melon. Oily texture on the palate and it does get rather intense and shows some warm alcohol notes. This is definitely food wine.

2014 Joseph Swan Vineyards Grenache Blanc Catie’s Corner Vineyard

Fresh notes of both green and yellow apples on both nose and palate but also with some peach and green melon. There is a fresh acidity that adds some direction to the wine.

2014 Joseph Swan Vineyards Chardonnay “Kent the Younger”

The nose is more forward than the palate, showing apricot, green and yellow apples and some slight tropical fruit notes. There is a slightly oily expression on the palate and the acidity is rather careful.

The reds

2013 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Saralee’s Vineyard”

Very fruit driven Pinot Noir with cherries, raspberries and some rather ripe strawberries. On the palate the wine is very juicy and fresh and has a slight herbal note. The acidity is good and adds some energy. An easy to like Pinot Noir of good quality.

2013 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Suicide Hill Great Oak Vineyard”

Very intense fruit aromas with raspberries, strawberries and cherries, combined with a cool and fresh acidity and some minerals. There is a herbal and minty element to this wine and some violet notes. Almost no structure. The wine has a unique coolness and a pure intense fruit.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Trenton Estate Vineyard”

Brimming fruitiness with cherries, blackberries and raspberries but also some intense blue floral notes. On the palate there is a slight marzipan sweetness as well as some herbal notes. It will be very interesting to see how this wine develops with time. This is a wine with a very strong personality.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Zinfandel “Zeigler vineyard”

Brimming high pitched fruit notes on the nose and a vibrant acidity and fresh fruit on the palate. Some herbal notes in the background. There is also a silky tannic structure. Surprisingly slim Zinfandel.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Tannat “Matthew’s Station vineyard”

Intense black and red fruit with an abundance of cherries and blackberries. There is a good tannic structure and a slightly harsh acidity. This is a wine with strong personality.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Trenton View vineyard”

Bright red fruit with a rather sweet touch. There are an abundance of cherries but also orange peel, marzipan and strawberries. On the palate the wine is rather sweet, juicy and with a very silky texture. The acidity is soft but good. This is a generous and forward wine but slightly one-dimensional at the moment.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Joseph Swan Vineyards

Joseph Swan Vineyards has an exciting range of wines, some of them from old vines and some

I did bring my assistant to this tasting…

from more unusual grapes like Tannat. In general, the wines of Joseph Swan Vineyards have an abundance of personality and the tasting never gets predictable.

Their Pinot Noir wines are characterized by an intense bright fruit expression, often with cherry and intense violet notes, that I find similar to what I sometimes experience in wines from Lafarge in Volnay. Despite the fruity expression the wines never get dense and heavy, but rather has a refined expression. They also seem very transparent to the vineyards and vintages.

My favorites from the tasting were the Trenton Estate Pinot Noir and the Suicide Hill Pinot Noir, but I also enjoyed the slim Zinfandel Zeigler and the pleasant Trenton View Pinot Noir.

 

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Visit to Hartford Family Winery – A young Sonoma winery with an impressive range of single vineyard wines

Introduction to the Hartford Family Winery

Hartford Family Winery was founded in 1994 by Don and Jennifer Hartford, and is based in Russian River Valley in Sonoma. They produce wines from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel and focus on single vineyard bottlings.

A few short notes about how Hartford Family Winery produce their wines:

  • Usually they use a cold soak of approximately 5 days for Pinot Noir
  • The absolut majority of the Pinot Noir is de-stemmed
  • The Chardonnays always go through malolactic fermentation
  • The Chardonnay is aged on the lees and are stirred approximately twice a month
  • French oak is used. Usually between 30-50% new and for between 9-15 months

Tasting notes for the wines from Hartford Family winery

2015 Hartford / Hartford Court Chardonnay Four Hearts Vineyards

35% new oak for 11 months. 14,5% alcohol.

Well balanced Chardonnay with yellow apples, white floral notes and tropical fruit both on nose and palate. The acidity is rather racy and with a citric expression. The texture is slightly oily and there is a clear oak influence but it does not take over the wine. This is a generous Chardonnay or good quality.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Chardonnay Seascape Vineyard

100% French oak; 32 % new for 16 months.  Alcohol: 14.2 %.

Very bright fruit notes on the nose with peach and other stone fruit combined with green apples. Similar fruit on the palate but with a rather slim profile and with a fantastic precise acidity. This is a great wine that will develop very well over many years.

 

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Sevens Bench Vineyard

100% French oak, 21% new for 16 months. Alcohol: 14.7%.

Very intense and rather dominant cherry notes but also smoke, marzipan, tea, some earth notes and herbs. The fruit is very ripe, especially on the palate and there is a slight bitterness in the finish. There is also a tannic structure to the wine.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Far Coast Vineyard

Alcohol: 14,8%.

The nose is dense and contains an abundance of dark cherries but also chocolate and herbal notes. Similar on the palate but there is even darker cherry and some alcohol. The acidity is rather low but and there is a velvety tannic structure.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir MacLean’s Block

100% French oak, 36% new.  Alcohol: 14.8%

Beautiful nose with cherries, spices, earthy notes and forrest floor. On the palate the wine shows more red fruit with strawberries and raspberries, but also cherry notes. There is a nice and precise acidity that is rather careful. This is a well balanced, rather dark Pinot Noir.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Jennifer’s

100% French oak; 39% new. Alcohol: 14.6%.

This is a dense wine with blueberries, orange peel, some red fruit and some spices. The acidity is of good quality but stays in the background and there is a velvety tannic structure. On the palate the spices comes forward even more, together with some orange juice. This wine will take some time to develop but has good potential.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Zinfandel Old Vine Fanucchi Wood Road Vineyard

100% French oak; 51% new

Great Zinfandel with an abundance of dark cherries, blueberries and pepper. The character is dense and compact but there is also a nice acidity that adds energy and freshness, especially to the finish. The tannic structure is grippy and tannins are of good quality.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Zinfandel Old Vine

100% French oak, 41% new for 9 months.

Great fruit notes both on nose and palate, containing cherries, ripe strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. There is also pepper on the palate together with some rather velvety tannins. The acidity is fresh and has clear lime notes.

2007 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Late Release Far Coast Vineyard

Great nose with blackberries, lingonberries, asian spices and some orange peel. The palate is similar but there is also a slight sweetness. Acidity is careful but enough to balance the wine.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Hartford Family Winery

The wines from Hartford Family Winery has a high and very even quality level. The character of the wines are rather opulent with dense notes, ripe fruit and rather high alcohol levels. The Pinot Noirs are dark and has an abundance of cherry notes. My favorite among the Pinot Noirs was the “MacLean’s Block” where the fruit notes were complemented by some more earthy notes. I was positively surprised by their old vine Zinfandels and I think the Chardonnays performed well, especially the “Seascape”.

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Visit to Ridge Vineyards – A treasure of old vine vineyards

Ridge Vineyards has a long history, dating back to 1885 when the vineyards at Monte Bello Ridge where first planted. Since 1959 a group of Standford University researchers took over the Estate and later also the vineyards of Monte Bello and later the Lytton Springs estate in Sonoma.Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello

Their philosophy is described as Pre industrial, and examples of their approach includes: Trust tasting more than measurements and reduce additives and interventions both in cellar and vineyards. For me their true treasure is their vineyards with very old vines. My impression when tasting their wines is that they harvest amazing fruit, giving a dense and complex expression.

I would also recommend everyone to visit their fantastic website where they have an abundance of information about their history, philosophy, vineyards and wine making principles.

Below are tasting notes for the Ridge Vineyard wines

2014 Ridge Chardonnay Estate

This is a generous and opulent Chardonnay both on nose and palate. The fruit is ripe and dominated by pineapple, stone fruit, melon, but also some lemon. The acidity is rather careful but of good quality and balances the fruit well. There is also rather clear notes of oak both on the nose and palate, especially in the finish. This is a good quality Chardonnay without major surprises.

2014 Ridge Lytton Springs

Very forward on the nose with brimming bright red fruit on top of a base of blueberries. The body is slightly slimmer and have darker fruit notes. There are sandy tannins that gives good structure and there is a good fresh acidity to balance all the fruit. I do get a slight green note in the background. This is a generous wine that still keeps balanced and it should develop well with time.

Ridge Vineyards Perrone2013 Ridge Merlot Perrone Monte Bello

This wine offered an abundance of dense blue fruit and has a very juicy character on the palate. There are some tannins and a rather soft acidity that takes a back seat to the fruit. Some oak notes adds extra sweetness to the wine. This is a very opulent wine.

2014 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch

Extremely dense layered dark fruit on both nose and palate but also some spices, minerals, game and vanilla from oak. Example of fruit notes are ripe plums, cherries and blueberries. There is a good tannic backbone to the wine. This wine is dense and powerful but still avoids getting too heavy.

2013 Ridge Monte BelloRidge Vineyards Monte Bello

This year has less Merlot then usually. Aged on 100% new American oak.

This is a opulent and powerful wine that still manages to stay intense. The nose and palate contains an abundance of cassis, cedar, vanilla, violet and blackberries. The acidity is rather soft and stays in the background, still the wine keeps a rather intense expression. Tannins are grippy and rather sandy at the moment. I think the wine is surprisingly approachable already but it should be stored.

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello2003 Ridge Monte Bello

There is an intense fruit in this wine, but also an abundance of cedar, graphite and a vanilla from oak. The fruit contains plums, ripe cherries, blackberries and blueberries. It still has a grippy tannic structure that is of good quality and an intense fresh acidity that gives a rather energetic expression for this otherwise heavy wine. Still needs much more time before it peaks.

1993 Ridge Monte BelloRidge Vineyards Monte Bello

Very earthy character and there is an abundance of blueberries, cedar, mushroom, graphite, vanilla, but also some leather notes. The fruit is ripe and almost dry in the character. The palate has a round and soft feeling with silky tannins and rather low levels of acidity. This is a wine that shows clear effects from aging, resulting in a complex nose and palate but also a lack of energy, and I would be hesitant to store it longer.

Summary of impressions from the Ridge Vineyard wines

Ridge vineyards produce dense and powerful wines and they use a lot of new oak and some of it American, resulting in sweet vanilla notes. Personally I wish they where more careful on the usage of new oak. Still their amazing fruit shines through in the wines and they manage to keep a rather vibrant and energetic expression. For me the 2013 Ridge Monte Bello stood out, but I was also positively surprised by the 2014 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch and the 2014 Ridge Lytton Springs.

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